Let’s state the obvious: Queer actors often get the short end of the stick in mainstream film, and gay men in particular are often regelated to the stereotype of the gay best friend. Over the last few decades, the trope has changed shape but remains myopic, an inaccurate representation of a massively diverse population. No one knows this quite as intimately as Daniel Franzese, best known for his portrayal of Gay Best Friend Damian Leigh in the beloved 2004 comedy Mean Girls.
On the 15th anniversary of Mean Girls, Franzese swung by the Jezebel office to discuss an evolution of the trope while interrogating My So-Called Life’s Ricky Vasquez, Sex and the City’s Stanford Blatch, Glee’s Kurt Hummel and, of course, Damian. According to Franzese, there’s still a long way to go in Hollywood:
“Still, to this day, I feel we’re suffering from a lot of pink face. Our love stories are told by straight men. Our heroes and our icons are being played by straight men. It’s not that I don’t think straight can play gay and gay can play straight, I definitely think there’s a total fluidity... but when it comes to, like, severe icons, when it comes to our heroes, that are our historical figures, you know, there’s no reason Jared Leto had to play trans. I would like to see a trans person become a star for playing an incredible, prestige role like that.”
And in case you were wondering, Mean Girls totally holds up, even a decade and a half later.
Senior Producer: Jennifer Perry, DP: Santiago Garcia, Additional Camera: Marvin Van Buren